Google Translate adds Latin translation tool

From The Daily Telegraph:

Google launches Latin translation tool

Google Translate, a service that can instantly translate entire web pages or chunks of text in to another language, has added Latin to its list.

Google Translate supports more than 50 languages, including minority languages such as Welsh and Haitian Creole, and the addition of Latin is sure to please scholars and traditionalists.

In a blog post, written entirely in Latin, Jakob Uszkoreit, a senior engineer at Google, said that Latin was far from a “dead language”.

“There are many Latin language learners,” he wrote. “Over 100,000 American students take the National Latin Exam every year and many more learn Latin all of the world. And there is a wealth of information originally written in it.”

He said that while Google recognised that the Latin translation tool would rarely be used to decipher emails or captions on YouTube videos, it would enable web users to read many of the crucially important philosophical and scientific texts originally written in this language.

“There are tens of thousands of scanned books written in Latin on Google Books, and many more contain Latin quotes and proverbs,” he wrote.

Google expects translations to and from Latin to be among the most accurate offered by its Google Translate tool.

“Unlike any of the other languages Google Translate supports, Latin offers a unique advantage: most of the text that will ever be written in Latin has already been written, and a comparatively large part of it has been translated in to other languages.

“We use these translations, found in books and on the web, to train our system.”

Google has also added a Latin text-to-speech function, too, to help people with their pronunciation.

We shall see.  Color me skeptical.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jono says:

    If only we could apply it to the AAS files on the Vatican website . . .

  2. ipadre says:

    Ecclesiastical or Classical? That is so cool.

  3. Knowing google it will probably be Pagan Latin, but we can always hope

  4. nhaggin says:

    Also color me sceptical about the translation. Text-to-speech, on the other hand, should be very good no matter which pronunciation they use, if they’re using the same tech that does text-to-speech on Android.

  5. Richard says:

    Just went there and translated “Et cum spiritu tuo”… The result: “And with your spirit”. So:

    Google Translate 1
    1970’s ICEL 0

  6. Lurker 59 says:

    For comparison.

    COLLECT – (2002MR):
    Deus, qui omnipotentiam tuam
    parcendo maxime et miserando manifestas,
    gratiam tuam super nos indesinenter infunde,
    ut, ad tua promissa currentes,
    caelestium bonorum facias esse consortes.

    O God, who manifest Your omnipotence
    especially by sparing and being merciful,
    pour Your grace upon us unceasingly,
    so that You may make us,
    rushing to the things You have promised,
    to be partakers of heavenly benefits

    GOOGLE’s Latin to English translation — Alpha
    COLLECT – (2002MR):
    O God, thy almighty
    especially by sparing and having mercy evident,
    Your grace upon us unceasingly pour into our hearts,
    so that, hasten towards Thy promises,
    the heavenly treasures Thou wouldst make us partakers.

  7. I wonder if Google does better than the lame-duck ICEL translations?

  8. Sam Urfer says:

    The fruits of their Alpha Latin translations:

    “Glory be to the God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will. We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we adore Thee, we glorify thee, we give thanks to you for your great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty. O Lord, the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us, who takes away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. You who sit at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For thou only art Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen.”

    “I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God only son, and born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation he came down from the heavens. And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. He was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, he suffered and was buried. And on the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, Who from the Father and the Son proceeds. Who with the Father and to the Son is worshiped and glorified, and at the same time, and who spoke through the prophets. We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

    “May the Lord receive the Sacrifice from your hands, to the praise and glory of His Name, for our good of the whole and His holy Church.”

    “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name thy kingdom come; thy will be done, as it is in the heavens and on earth. Our daily bread, Give us this day, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

    “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Hosts. Are full of the heavens and the earth of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”

    “Behold, the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world. Blessed are they that unto the supper of the Lamb are invited…O Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

    Some computer-generate awkwardnesses, but generally not half-bad. Google’s computer is more reverent and accurate than the translations that we got in the 70’s.

  9. Rob in Maine says:

    I tried some simple phrases from my copy of Adlers.
    My good sugar translated as “Sugar bone.”
    Saccharum meum bonum translated as “synthetic construct my good”. However, when I uncapitalised “saccahrum” it provided the correct transaltion “my good sugar”. Odd.

  10. Sam Urfer says:

    The text-to-speech is using Ecclesial pronunciation! Or at least Italian.

  11. BT says:

    The nice translations of liturgical texts come up because other people have already suggested those translations for the Latin text in question. Even if you input just “ecce agnus,” it will output “Behold the Lamb of,” (including the preposition and capitalization) in anticipation of the completion of the phrase.

  12. Henry Edwards says:

    Sam Urfer,
    Color me impressed. Too bad Google’s Latin->English translator was not available in 1973. How much better would the Church have been with Google than with ICEL? Of course, Google evidently has a different objective now than ICEL had then, namely, to give What The Prayer Does Really Say.

  13. Mitchell NY says:

    I have commented often that now more than ever with the web available Latin should be revived in at least portions of every Mass. Latin is so accessable and easy to learn via the net that people can easily learn a few prayers and responses with the aid of the computer. That is real Active Participation ! Hopefully the Holy See and Priests all over the world will realize this. On the net there are even pronunciation aids that help you to pronounce the Latin correctly as well. It truly is an advantage and in this era Veterum Sapientia has a true chance at implementation throughout the world and with a much greater chance of a successful implementation with internet study aids for Priests AND lay people. There has probably been no better time for a revival than now. I hope everyone takes use of it.

  14. Henry Edwards says:

    BF: Hmm . . . Should I be be colored “sucker”?

  15. Bryan Boyle says:

    Not bad. Contribute to the effort…it missed (or perhaps couldn’t reconcile) the english word “translate” into its latin counterpart.

    Hey…for a pagan organization that professes to ‘do no harm’, it’s impressive. At least they’re trying.

    (I can see all the replies now being run through it before posting here…;))

  16. KristenB says:

    What color is skeptical? Does that only come in the REALLY BIG boxes of crayons?

  17. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    Even the translation of the collect isn’t terrible. And as people noted, Google Translate functions partially by allowing people to suggest better translations. It effeectively makes it a learning system, where people translate something, realize its not quite right (maybe it misses a cultural phrase or colloquialism, for example) then they can submit a better translation. Somehow it uses these suggestions to better its translations.

    Using it often for Spanish and Italian texts (mainly to get my daily soccer news fix), I have found that, while grammar is often terrible, you can usually get the meaning out of it. It is a very good automatic translator

  18. tzard says:

    English to Latin transliterates Arabic to Roman numerals. Neat.

  19. Baylor_convert says:

    Looking at Lurker 59’s example, I’m having a hard time figuring out how it decides between Thy/Thou and Your/You. And it’s odd that it knows to capitalize such pronouns in a prayer but fails to translate a present active participle correctly. A curious piece of software.

  20. Sam Urfer says:

    Yeah, it’s probably been taught good, High Church language by the people using it; this is part of the good of the system, actually. This means, the more we use it and correct it, the better it will tend to be overall. Indeed, computers can be little other than slavishly literal.

  21. Nathan says:

    What is amusing is that, from English to Latin, the “lame duck” ICEL verson of the Credo–“We believe in one God” is translated into the actual Latin text of the Credo–“Credo in unum Deum.”

    Some of the phrases of the Gloria work the same way, but even Google couldn’t get around the fact that much of the “lame duck” version is simply not what the Latin says.

    I’m really tempted to run “Gather us in” through the translator and see what we come up with.
    In Christ,

  22. Nathan says:

    Ok, here it is, Congrega Nos . I don’t know which I like better, the line “Congrega nos in damnatis relictos” or “da fortitudinem intrare song.”

    In loco hoc novum lumen infusum
    nunc tenebras evanuit,
    ecce hoc spatio timentur nostra somniantes,
    adducto tibi lucem diem.

    Congrega nos in damnatis relictos
    in congrega nos caeci et claudi;
    Nunc voca et nos vigilare
    Consurge nos voce nomen nostrum.

    Lorem pueri – Nostrae mysterium
    vetus sumus – qui desiderat faciem.
    Dicto nos in omni historia
    vocatus lumen toti humano generi.

    Congrega nos divites in superbos
    congrega nos superborum et fortia
    da nobis ita corde humili et mitis
    da fortitudinem intrare song.

    Hic capiemus a vino et aqua
    Hic capiemus panem natalis
    hic vocabitis filii tui et filiae tuae
    nosque novo esse sal terræ.

    Donet vino misericordia
    da ut comedat panem qui te
    bene alunt doces more
    uita sancti, et veras corde.

    In Christ,

  23. Shadow says:

    Great! Finally I can get to translate stuff back and forth.

  24. robtbrown says:

    I’m suprised no one did:

    Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.

    Here is the definitive translation:

    The great altar, constructed from the wall of amusing that it was easily and by the one about to be surrounded the celebration of the people toward the ceremony could be performed, it is suitable for wherever it is possible.

    That settles that.

  25. Bryan Boyle says:


    That at least LOOKS better. Though the swarmy sentiments are the same…LOL.

    Like putting lipstick on swine, though…

  26. czemike says:

    Google’s Latin translator might need a lot of work, but they seem to have a better hang of it than the ICEL does:

  27. Dave N. says:

    Where was all this when I was in school?

  28. pewpew says:

    et cum spiritu tu – And also with you
    et cum spiritu tuo – And with your spirit
    Interesting… now we know how that came about
    @robtbrown: LOL

  29. Bob says:

    Well I don’t know:
    Corpus Sancti ex Palestina Romam translatum, depositumque in basilica s. Mariae Majoris.
    I got:
    Palestine from the body of the holy was carried to Rome, a trust that is in the hall, to wit, Of the Mayor of the blessed Virgin.
    Instead of:
    The body of the saint was brought to Rome from Palestine, and put in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

    Might say it needs some work!

  30. I think Google should pay Fr. Z to improve the translations. You get this option every time it offers a translation: “Offer a better translation”.

    I think Fr. Z can add “Slavish translations”. ROFL

  31. Andrew says:


    ” from the wall of amusing that it was easily and by the one about to be surrounded …”

    Finally! Now I do understand!

  32. Mitchell NY says:

    I used the translator today and sent some text messages… The recipients were surprised but delighted to know that Latin use is on the move and can be expressed and used in some everyday common phrases. I will continue to support the use of Latin and pass it along in small ways in daily life.

  33. Melody says:

    This is good news, I’m certain that the good people of WDTPRS will help this tool learn at a rapid pace. Also, I suspect that many times Google actually fails at speaking English because our grammar is so different from the romance languages, and unlike many of them, our word order is less flexible.

    It’s wonderful that Google acknowledges that Latin is far from a dead language. I become annoyed when I hear the phrase, for Latin is just about everywhere.

    At the moment I’m playing a video game in which the main characters are Terra, Aqua, and Ventus. The main antagonist is Vanitas. Vanitas is certainly the enemy of many. ^_^

  34. Jerry says:

    Some more interesting quirks:

    credo in unum Deum -> I believe in one God, (note the comma in anticipation of the rest…)
    credimus in unum Deum -> we believe in one God, -> credo (!) …
    credo -> I believe -> credo
    credimus -> we believe -> credo (!)
    credis -> Do you believe
    credit -> believes
    credunt -> believe ; they believe -> credunt

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